The idea for a male network in Bristol began at St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School in 2013, partially in response to an allegation made against a male member of staff.
The allegation was made, it came as a shock, not only to the member of staff but also to the Head Teacher and the rest of the setting. As part of Child Protection policy and a police investigation, the member of staff was immediately removed from the setting. He was allowed no further contact with anyone other than the Head Teacher and was not given any details about the allegation.
Isolation, the nature of the allegation (linked to gender) and the lack of support for the member of staff sparked the idea that a support network which could also work to look at gender inequality was needed.
When the ‘all clear’ was given for the staff member to return to work, more issues were raised - who to tell, how much to share, how to move forward with the family involved and how to handle the press.
The nursery subsequently overhauled its safeguarding policies and record keeping procedures, taking into account common prejudices and perceptions about men who work with young children. The nursery made explicit their belief in equal opportunities and also the value for children in having a diverse mix of adults involved in their care and education.
Given the disproportionate number of allegations made against men across the city every year there seemed a real lack of guidance both for staff and settings on how to navigate these issues. As such, Head Teacher Liz Jenkins and Teacher Jay Ramsey decided to form the Bristol Men in Early Years Network and in April 2014 we held our inaugural meeting led by visiting speaker Jamie Wilson From Everton Nursery School and Family Centre.
We owe Liz Jenkins a huge debt of gratitude for seeing us through our own early years, providing mentoring and financial support as well as to funding from Bristol City Council and Sally Jaeckle. In 2015 Shaddai Tembo joined the leadership team followed by Craig Black in 2016. With support from VOSCUR we have become a Community Interest Company working to pursue our vision and tackle the workforce imbalance. As of 2019 we have a new leadership team comprising of Marco, Will, Lucy and Simon. Their details can be found under the ‘Leadership’ tab on the website.